Catholic Fatherhood, growing in geekiness, holiness and intelligence.

kc0lex (Matthew). Get yours at

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Herb Garden Notes, harvesting and drying

Notes for the Herb portion of the garden.

Basil, French basil, or sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a popular, tender, annual herb. It is native to India and Asia. Basil is grown for its aromatic leaves which are used fresh or dried as a flavoring. Fresh basil leaves are used in tomato sauces and pesto sauces. Basil is also good with veal, lamb, fish, poultry, white beans, pasta, rice, tomatoes, cheese, and eggs. It can also be used in vinegar and tea.

Basil can be direct-seeded or transplanted to the garden in late spring, after all danger of frost is past. Basil seeds normally germinate in 8-14 days. Basil requires full sun and prefers moist and well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0. Typical spacing for basil is 12 inches between plants, and 24 to 36 inches between rows.

Basil grown for dried leaves or essential oil is cut just prior to the appearance of flowers. The foliage should be cut at least four to six leaves above the ground to allow for regrowth and a subsequent crop (Figure 2). Information on insects and diseases of basil is limited. Japanese beetle, Fusarium, and powdery mildew have been reported to attack basil. Refer to OSU Extension Fact Sheet HYG-1644-94 for additional information on basil.

Dill, Anethum graveolens, is native to the Mediterranean area and southern Russia. Dill is a hardy annual, and sometimes is grown as a biennial. Dill is commonly used as a seasoning for soups, fish, and pickles. Its aromatic leaves, seeds, flowers, and stems can be used to flavor cabbage, vinegars, butter, apple pie, butter, cakes, and bread. Dill should be direct-seeded in spring, at a 10-inch spacing. Since dill has long tap roots, it should not be transplanted. Fresh leaves should be harvested before flowering begins. Harvest seeds as soon as seed heads are brown and dry. Dill is a great plant in butterfly gardens since butterfly larvae feed on dill. Dill does not have any serious pest or disease problems. However, phoma blight, rusty root, and stem rot have been reported.

Oregano, Origanum vulgare subsp. hirtum also referred to as O. heracleoticum and O. hirtum, is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe and central Asia. It is naturalized in the eastern United States. It is used in tomato sauce to add a hot and peppery taste. It adds dimension to yeast breads, marinated vegetables, roasted meats, and fish. Oregano is a perennial, and can be propagated by seeds. Direct seed in the garden and do not cover seeds since they need sunlight to germinate. Flavor can vary a lot among seed propagated plants. It is better to propagate by root divisions or cuttings from plants that are known to have strong flavor. Oregano reaches a height of 12-24 inches, and a width of 10-20 inches. It requires a site with full sun, and well-drained soil with a pH of 6.8. Sprigs of oregano can be cut off when the plant is at least 6 inches high. In June, vigorously grown plants can be cut back to the lowest set of leaves. Plants will generally leaf out after two weeks and can be cut back again in August. Some pest and disease problems for oregano include aphids, leafminers, spider mites, and root rot.

Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, is a tender perennial, hardy to zones 8 to 10. It is native to the Mediterranean region, Portugal, and northeastern Spain. It is pungent, somewhat piny, and mintlike yet sweeter. Its flavor harmonizes with poultry, fish, lamb, beef, veal, pork, and game. Rosemary also enhances vegetables, cheese, and eggs. Rosemary can be started from seeds, but germination rates are very low. Use fresh seeds, preferably less than two weeks old. Packaged seeds are difficult to germinate. Start plants from cuttings or by layering from existing plants. Rosemary grows slowly from seeds, and eventually reaches a height of 72 inches and a width of 36-72 inches. Plant rosemary in a sunny location with well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Harvesting can be done throughout the year. Cut 4-inch pieces from the tips of the branches, being careful not to remove more than 20% of the growth at one time. Pest and disease problems of rosemary include aphids, spider mites, scale, mealybugs, root rot, and botrytis.

A=Annual B=Biennial P=Perennial TP=Tender perennial

Basil, Sweet-(A)- For fresh use, harvest the leaves as they mature-about 2 weeks after planting. For dry use, harvest leaves just before the plant blooms. Use: One of the most popular herbs, used mainly with tomato and egg dishes, stews, soups, and salads, but also with many vegetable, poultry, and meat dishes.

Dill-(A)- The fresh leaves can be harvested as needed and used as seasoning. Seed heads should be harvested then the seeds ripen to a light brown color. Uses: Leaves and seed heads are most commonly used in the making of dill pickles. The leaves also add a characteristic flavor to salads, cottage cheese, soups, fish dishes, omelets, sauces, and vegetable casseroles. Dill seeds are sometimes used in pastries, sauces, sauerkraut dishes, and for flavoring vinegar.

Oregano-(P)- Harvest and dry before flowering occurs. Uses: Oregano imparts a sharper flavor than Sweet Marjoram. It is used to season spaghetti sauces and tomato dishes. Its flowers are attractive in summer arrangements.

Rosemary-(TP)- Harvest the young, tender stems and leaves, but avoid taking off more than one-third of the plant at one time. For drying, harvest just before the plant flowers. Uses: A gourmet seasoning for meats, poultry dishes, and potatoes. Use either fresh or dried.

Dehydrator Drying
Dehydrator drying is a fast and easy way to dry high quality herbs because temperature and air circulation can be controlled. Pre-heat dehydrator with the thermostat set to 95 °F to 115 °F. In areas with higher humidity, temperatures as high as 125 °F may be needed. After rinsing under cool, running water and shaking to remove excess moisture, place the herbs in a single layer on dehydrator trays. Drying times may vary from one to four hours. Check periodically. Herbs are dry when they crumble, and stems break when bent. Check your dehydrator instruction booklet for specific details.

Air Drying
Sturdy Herbs: Herbs such as sage, thyme, summer savory and parsley are the easiest to dry. They can be tied into small bundles and air-dried. Air-drying outdoors is often possible; however, better color and flavor retention usually results from drying indoors.
Tender-Leaf Herbs: Basil, tarragon, lemon balm and the mints have a high moisture content and will mold if not dried quickly. Try hanging the tender-leaf herbs or those with seeds inside paper bags to dry. Tear or punch holes in the sides of the bag. Suspend a small bunch (large amounts will mold) of herbs in a bag and close the top with a rubber band. Place where air currents will circulate through the bag. Any leaves and seeds that fall off will be caught in the bottom of the bag.

Oven Drying
Another method — especially nice for mint, sage or bay leaf — is to dry the leaves separately. In areas of high humidity, it will work better than air drying whole stems. Remove the best leaves from the stems. Lay the leaves on a paper towel, without allowing leaves to touch. Cover with another towel and layer of leaves. Five layers may be dried at one time using this method. Dry in a very cool oven. The oven light of an electric range or the pilot light of a gas range furnishes enough heat for overnight drying. Leaves dry flat and retain a good color.

Microwave Drying
Microwave ovens are a fast way to dry herbs when only small quantities are to be prepared. Follow the directions that come with your microwave oven.

This website has all kinds of stuff about Cuban Oregano, including a recipes.

Much more stuff from a scientific level on oregano.

No comments: